USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan was raised by a sports-loving father who taught her that she could do or be whatever she wanted. He inspired her through her career, which has included stints at the Miami Herald and the Washington Post and required tricky navigation through a male-dominated field. Her memoir, "Best Seat in the House," is a tribute to her inspiration, her dad.
Read an excerpt below.
My Father's Daughter
"Two tickets to a Cleveland Indians game," the announcer was saying on the Saturday-morning radio show on WSPD in Toledo, Ohio, "for the person who knows the answer to this
All six of us were at the kitchen table on a typically chaotic, noisy Saturday morning in late May of 1969. I had my head buried in the newspaper, poring over the baseball standings. I don't think my parents or my siblings heard the question, but I did.
"Who were the two pitchers involved in the only double nohitter in baseball history?" the man on the radio asked.
"I know the answer to that," I said, as much to myself as to anyone else. "Fred Toney and James Vaughn."
It was in one of the baseball books I was reading. Having just turned eleven, I already was smitten with baseball, with our minor-league Mud Hens and with all the major-league teams surrounding us: the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago, the Tigers in Detroit, the Indians in Cleveland, the Reds in Cincinnati. Unlike so many children in other parts of the country, I didn't have to pick one team to cheer for. I had a half dozen in my big Midwestern backyard. But those weren't the only teams I followed.
When I tried to fall asleep at night, I didn't count sheep. I recited World Series teams, going backward from 1968, until I didn't know them anymore.
My father turned to look at me.
"You want to call in?" Dad asked.
I shook my head no. I pictured a sports fan, a man, already at his phone somewhere else in Toledo, dialing in, answering correctly, winning the tickets.
We listened for a few moments.
"We still don't have any callers," the radio announcer said. Dad looked at me and smiled. I pushed my chair away from the table and walked to the phone. I still thought I would be too late. I picked up the phone and looked at my father, then my mother. They nodded approvingly without saying a word. I dialed the number.
A man answered at the radio station. I recognized his voice. It was the announcer. Everyone in the kitchen fell silent. Mom reached for the kitchen radio and twisted the knob to turn down the sound so I wouldn't get distracted, then ran to their bedroom to listen.
"So," the announcer asked, "you know the answer?"
"Yes," I said in the firmest eleven-year-old voice I could muster. "Fred Toney and James Vaughn."
"Oh, we've got a young fan here," the announcer chuckled. "And what teams did they play for?"
He was adding another question, right then, on the air. It wasn't a problem. I knew the answer.
"The Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs," I replied.
"You're right! You win the tickets! What's your name?" "Christine Brennan," I said.
"Oh," the announcer said. "You're a girl."
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